Current Affairs Current Affairs March 2020

  The 5th edition of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Summit 2020 to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in the month of September 2020. The summit will be preceded by the 17th Ministerial Meeting and 21st Senior Officials Meeting by the end of 2020. During the meet, it was decided that Sri Lanka will lead the science, technology, and innovation sector in BIMSTEC. Sri Lanka is the Chair of BIMSTEC between 2018 and 2020 and it will hand over the chairmanship to Thailand by the end of 2020. Even though Sri Lanka had hosted 3 Working Committee meetings earlier, this summit will be the first one under the new Administration.

  Moody’s Investors Service stated that G-20 countries are expected to grow by 2.1% in 2020. Moody’s cuts 0.3 percentage points lower than its previous forecast, as the global spread of the coronavirus, is resulting in simultaneous supply and demand shocks. It cautioned that global recession risks have risen. The global credit rating agency is expecting these shocks to materially slow economic activity, particularly in the first half of this year (2020). The G-20 grouping includes advanced economies such as the US, Euro area, Japan, Germany, and the UK, and emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil, Russia, and Mexico.

  Former Union Law Minister and Congress veteran Hans Raj Bhardwaj died after a cardiac arrest. Hans Raj Bhardwaj was 83. Hans Raj Bhardwaj was born in Garhi Sampla village in Rohtak district of Haryana. He was a Rajya Sabha member for five terms from April 1982 to June 2009. Bhardwaj was the union law minister for 14 years and served under the prime ministership of Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao, and Dr. Manmohan Singh. He was appointed the governor of Karnataka in 2009. It was during Bhardwaj’s tenure as law minister that Bofors-accused Ottavio Quattrocchi was given a clean chit by then UPA government in 2009.

  The Central Government is implementing the flagship programme Poshan Abhiyan for improving the nutritional status of Indian citizens. This programme helps children, adolescents, pregnant women, and lactating mothers by leveraging technology. The importance of being given to the programme is evident from the fact that as many as 14 Central Departments and all the State Governments are being involved in the programme. Tamil Nadu tops the list of the states in terms of the number of participants in the programme. The Integrated Child Development Scheme has been in force for long in the southern state that has got rejuvenated with the Centre’s Poshan Abhiyaan mission. The programme is revitalizing India by reaching out to the children and mothers across the nation.

 On March 8, 2020, the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javedekar announced that sanitary napkin disposal bags are to be made mandatory. 
  • Highlights
The sanitary napkin manufacturers have to supply a biodegradable bag along with every napkin from January 2021. There are high possibilities for the “Swachhta Sevaks” or the women garbage collectors to get infected as they are handling the sanitary napkin wastes directly from the garbage. The Minister also announced that sanitation and cleanliness norms are to be applied for all villages with population more than 3,000.
  • Legislation
The soiled diapers, napkins, blood-soaked cotton and condoms from the households are received by the municipal waste collectors. The Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) rules, 2000 makes it mandatory to dispose these wastes after segregating them biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. However, some napkins contain layer of plastics and some don’t. Therefore, it is difficult to sort them. According to Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) rules, 1998, items that are contaminated with bodily fluids should be incinerated to destroy pathogens.

  A Delimitation Commission was formed under former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai.
  • Highlights
The Delimitation for the state of Jammu and Kashmir is to be carried out according to Jammu and Kashmir reorganization act. The previous delimitation for the state of Jammu and Kashmir was done in 1995. The state was under President’s rule when the last delimitation was done. For other parts of the country, delimitation is to be done based on the census 2031. The previous delimitation for rest of India was done based on 2001.
  • Legislation
The delimitation commission was formed under Section 3 of Delimitation Act, 2002. So far, 4 such delimitation commissions have been constituted under the act. They were in 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002.
  • What is Delimitation?
Delimitation is the process of fixing boundaries of constituency. The Delimitation had been suspended between 1976 and 2001. This was because GoI was implementing the policy of family planning in a full-fledged way during this period.

 On March 9, 2020, the prices of crude oil plunged by 20% after OPEC to failed to make a deal in making production cuts.
  • Highlights
The Saudi Arabia and its major allies like Kuwait, Iraq and UAE initiated to make a deal at the OPEC to reduce production of oil. This was proposed predicting reduction in oil prices due to spread of Corona Virus in the world. However, Russia the major member of OPEC refused to make the deal.
  • Why did Russia refuse?
With US imposing CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), several countries reduced or even stopped importing oil from Russia. This has now made Russia the fourth largest International Reserves in the world. Also, Russia is also in the state that it shall cope with lower prices.
  • Way Forward
The oil prices are expected to plunge further in the future. The Saudi has taken up new strategy targeting Russia and US shale oil firms. These firms will lose money greatly when oil prices fall below 50 USD per barrel for more than few months.

 On March 8, 2020, TIFAC operating under Ministry of Science and Technology launched Vigyan Jyoti. The scheme was announced to celebrate International Women’s Day.
  • Highlights
The Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) launched Vigyan Jyoti in order to encourage women to take science as their career. Under the scheme, selected qualified women from more than 500 women are to be provided opportunities to attend science camps at NITs, IITS and other leading institutions in the country.
  • Vigyan Jyoti
The Vigyan Jyoti was launched by the Central Government to promote STEM Education among girls. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It was launched in October 2019. It is essential to bring in such initiatives because according to ministry of science and technology only 24% of total passed out students are in the field of STEM and only 22% of the post graduates are women.
  • TIFAC
TIFAC was formed as a registered body in 1988 under DST (Department of Science and Technology).

 The scientists of ARCI (Advanced Research for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials) recently developed PEMFC (Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells). The technology is to be used to manage Natural Disasters.
  • Highlights
The PEMFC is a system with 10 KW capacity. They have operational advantage to operate at low-temperature in decentralized systems of power generation. The technology was developed at Chennai centre of ARCI. The system is to be used to operate early warning systems using phones, ethernet, computers, FAX, etc.
  • Significance
The technology is to act as power house to Emergency Operation Centres. The Control Rooms that respond to disasters are now being altered as Emergency Operation Centres. Therefore, the technology has come in at the right time. It provides immediate support during Golden Hour. They operate using hydrogen gas and there is no necessity to use grid power.
  • Fuel Cells
The Fuel cell uses chemical energy to generate electricity. It consists of 2 electrodes called anode and cathode. It also holds an electrolyte that acts as catalyst to speed up reactions at electrodes. The main advantage of fuel cell is that it creates minimum waste (pollution).

  A Parliamentary panel set up on education submitted its report to Rajya Sabha on 2020-21 demand for grants. The report said that shortfalls in budget funds has led to critical infrastructure gaps.
  • Key findings of the report
The Panel in its report says that more than 27% cuts have been made in budget allocations for school education. The report also says that only 56% of schools have electricity. The lowest rates were found in Manipur and Madhya Pradesh. Also, only 57% of schools have playgrounds. A boundary wall which is essential for safety of students and school property was not found in 40% of the schools.
  • Recommendations
The panel recommended that the Ministry of HRD shall collaborate with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to make developments. The scheme shall also be used to provide renewable energy to give access of power to schools. According to the report, the performance of the schools were better where the above facilities were implemented.


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